“Common Flowers/White Out: Bio-Hacking, Open-Sourcing and Exorcising GM Flowers” presented by Tremmel and Fukuhara


Session Title:

  • Coded Cultures and Japan Media Arts Festival Session

Presentation Title:

  • Common Flowers/White Out: Bio-Hacking, Open-Sourcing and Exorcising GM Flowers




  • Suntory Ltd., the Japanese drink and biotechnology company, acquired Australian-based Florigene in the middle of the 1990’s and along its research on the genetic modification of the pedal colour of carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus L.). Suntory and Florigene not only succeeded in creating blue coloured carnations, they also introduced them in 2005 into the general market.

    The significance of this is not the bio-technical feat of creating a novel pedal colour – which was not possible through standard breeding techniques – but the fact that this blue GM carnation – “Moondust™” – constitutes the very first instance of a genetically modified plant with the function of aesthetic consumption.

    Previously, GM-modified plants like soy, corn, tomato and rice were developed with the aim of serving as human food or animal feed. GM Food has sparked discussion and outrage, often justified, but often the issues are dealt with a gross simplification that distort the issues at stake and try to demonize the technologies involved. Technology, and especially Biotechnology can be considered neither good nor evil; as with all technologies it depends on the purpose for which they are deployed. By positioning the flowers as an aesthetic product – which is not intended for human consumption – Suntory manages to sidestep the ethical dimensions involved and exclude themselves from the ongoing debate about the possible negative effects of adding genetically modified products and their unknown consequences to the food chain. This projects tries to invite Suntory back into the discussion.

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